Everyone in the business of delivering pre-packaged food to consumers should be aware that ‘Natasha’s Law’ was introduced on 5th September 2019.

The tragic death of Natasha Ednan-Laperouse, on a flight in July 2016, following an allergic reaction to a baguette purchased shortly before at Heathrow Airport, led to the introduction of stricter labelling regulations for pre-packaged food.

The new legislation mandates full ingredient and allergen labelling on foods which are pre-packed for direct sale. The law applies to England, Wales and Northern Ireland, and comes into effect from October 2021.

The Food Standards Agency (FSA) is developing a working interpretation of the types of food to which this legislation applies, which will give food businesses a 21 month transition period to prepare for the new requirements.

“Until now the retailer has been required to list allergens on a shelf label, but the foods themselves have not been required to carry labels and information on allergens, as it is assumed that the customer can speak with the person who made or packed the product for this information,” says Gen-Label’s Alan Bryson. “This has led to people mistakenly thinking that the food does not contain any allergens.”

Tri-Star Packaging (part of Bunzl UK’s Catering & Hospitality Division) is now working directly with the Natasha Allergy Research Foundation (NARF), which is Tri-Star’s chosen ‘Charity of the Year’ for 2020.

“We are proud to be working closely with NARF,” says Tri-Star Managing Director Alex Noake. “With over 30 years’ experience in food service industry labelling, our Gen-Label division can help medium and small players adopt the necessary legislation very quickly and I am pleased to announce that Alan Bryson, the Head of Gen-Label, will be supporting NARF as its labelling expert.

“We are deeply concerned that the industry as a whole is not mobilising quickly enough. We have seen a number of well publicised near misses in the media recently which are directly attributable to inadequate labelling, and I fear that it is only a matter of time before a tragedy, similar to what happened to Natasha Ednan-Laperouse, reoccurs.”

“Natasha’s Law comes into effect from October 2021, but why wait?” Asks Alan Bryson. “This is an important health issue, but also one of corporate responsibility. 2021 is a long way off, so why leave risks in place when we, as an industry, could act right away.

“Now I hear what you’re saying. ‘It’s OK for the larger operators, they have departments and specialists, let alone budgets to deal with this kind of thing, but I’m a small business and it’s going to make quite an impact’. Yes, that’s true, but lives are literally at stake, and we as an industry can improve our reputation immediately if we take action today rather than waiting until 2021.”

Tanya Ednan-Laperouse of the Natasha Allergy Research Foundation said: “We believe 21 months is ample time for all food service providers to implement Natasha’s Law, however big or small the operation. The industry needs to show real leadership and work with vigour to protect the interests of customers, who are demanding clear labelling and transparency on products. This is about saving lives and sparing other families from the grief we will always bear. We urge the industry to get on with it.”

Gen-Label makes food labelling simple, and its expert team can draw on more than forty years’ combined experience in the food labelling sector to help guide customers through current and future legislation changes.

“The new legislation will mean a safer choice for consumers who suffer from allergies. It is a welcome improvement to a relaxed area of food labelling,” says Alan Bryson. “The need for allergy clarification has never been more apparent, and the demand on food producers to describe their products has increased the time and cost required to produce their goods.

“The law is one that has already been in place for all pre-packed foods. This is a tried and proven system of ingredients by weight and allergens highlighted accordingly – and software systems make this process manageable. This need not be a negative or onerous task, as with any challenge faced in our industry, this can also be an opportunity to shine. A responsibly labelled product will help drive sales and increase brand integrity.

“Gen-Label Online is available now and already services a huge volume of customers. We offer the best support and training available and endeavour to standout in a traditional market with innovative solutions and cutting edge ideas.

“Natasha’s Law creates a great opportunity for the food service sector to enhance its reputation by acting to provide consumers with essential allergen information – and should act now.”